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Earthquakes can cause buildings and bridges to collapse, down telephone and power lines, and result in fires, explosions and landslides. Earthquakes can also cause huge ocean waves, called tsunamis [soo-nah’-mees], which travel long distances over water until they hit coastal areas.
Our planet’s surface is actually made up of slowly-moving sections called tectonic plates that can build up friction or stress in the crust as they creep around. An earthquake occurs when this built up stress is suddenly released and transmitted to the surface of the earth by earthquake waves (called seismic waves).
There are millions of earthquakes, or seismic tremors, every year around the world. Most earthquakes are too small to be felt, but when they happen, you will feel shaking, quickly followed by a rolling motion that can rotate up, down, and sideways that lasts from a few seconds to several minutes.
BEFORE AN EARTHQUAKE:
Learn the buzzwords - Learn the terms / words used with earthquakes...
Reduce risks - Look for things that could be hazardous and secure loose stuff...
-- Place large or heavy objects on lower shelves and fasten shelves to walls, if possible.
-- Use nylon straps or L-braces to secure cabinets, bookcases and other tall furniture to the wall.
-- Secure heavy appliances like water heaters, refrigerators, etc. using bands of perforated steel (plumber’s tape).
-- Use buckles or safety straps to secure computers, TVs, stereos and other equipment to tabletops.
-- Use earthquake or florist putty to tack down glassware, heirlooms and figurines.
-- Hang heavy pictures and mirrors away from beds.
-- Store bottled foods, glass, china and other breakables on low shelves or in cabinets that can fasten shut.
-- Repair faulty electrical wiring and leaky gas connections.
Consider retrofitting your home - There are options to retrofit or reinforce your home’s foundation and frame available from reputable contractors who follow strict building codes. Other earthquake-safety measures include installing flexible gas lines and automatic gas shutoff valves. Changes to gas lines and plumbing in your house must be done by a licensed contractor who will ensure that the work is done correctly and according to code. This is important for your safety.
Learn to shut off - Know where and how to shut off electricity, gas and water at main switches and valves -- ask local utilities for instructions.
Do drills - Hold earthquake drills with your family to learn what to do...
-- DROP - drop down to the floor
-- COVER - get under heavy desk or table or against inside wall protecting head and neck with your arms
-- HOLD ON - grab something sturdy, be ready to move with it and hold on until shaking stops!
Make a plan - Develop a Family Emergency Plan (e.g. establish meeting places, list of emergency contact #s, out of state contact person, etc) and Disaster Supplies Kits/BOBs
Check policies - Review your insurance policies. Some damage may be covered even without specific earthquake insurance.
DURING AN EARTHQUAKE:
Stay calm & be aware - Watch for falling objects and find a safe spot! Realize most injuries happen when people are hit by things when running IN or OUT of buildings.
IF INDOORS – Stay inside and ...
-- Avoid danger zones like glass, windows, heavy things that can fall over or down on you.
-- DROP, COVER and HOLD on until the shaking stops. If there isn’t a table or desk near you, cover face and head with arms and crouch in an inside corner of the building.
IF IN A HIGH-RISE BUILDING – Stay on the same floor!
-- Move away from outside walls and windows.
-- Stay on the same floor - you may not have to evacuate.
-- Realize electricity may go out and alarms and sprinkler systems may go on.
-- DO NOT use the elevators!
IF OUTDOORS - Stay outside and, if possible, move away from buildings, signs, trees, power lines and street lights.
IF IN A MOVING VEHICLE - Stop as quickly and safely as you can!
-- Try not to stop near buildings, trees, overpasses, or power lines and stay in vehicle until shaking stops.
-- Watch for road and bridge damage and be ready for aftershocks once you drive again.
If you are trapped in an area:
AFTER AN EARTHQUAKE:
Aftershocks - Usually not as strong but can cause more damage to weakened structures and may continue for days, months or even years.
Injuries - Check yourself and people around you for injuries - do not try to move seriously injured people unless they are in danger. If you must move a person who is passed out keep their head and neck still and call for help, if possible.
Light - Never use candles, matches or lighters since there might be gas leaks. Use flashlights or battery powered lanterns.
Check chimney - First check from a distance to see if chimney looks normal and have a professional check it if it looks strange. Check out the Chimney Safety Institute of America’s homeowner tips at http://www.csia.org
Clean up - Any flammable liquids (bleaches, gasoline, etc.) should be cleaned up immediately.
Inspect - Check all utility lines and appliances for damage:
Water - If water is cut off or contaminated then use water from your Disaster Supplies Kit or other clean water sources.
Power - If you use a generator, keep it outside and follow manufacturer’s instructions.
Phones - Keep calls to a minimum to report emergencies since most lines will be down.
Listen - Keep up on news reports for the latest information.
Things to avoid:
Tsunami - If you live near the coast, a tsunami can crash into the shorelines so listen for warnings by local authorities.
RED or GREEN sign in window – After a disaster, Volunteers and Emergency Service personnel will be going door-to-door to check on people. By placing a sign in your window that faces the street near the door, you can let them know if you need them to STOP HERE or MOVE ON. Either use a piece of RED or GREEN construction paper or draw a big RED or GREEN “X” (using a crayon or marker) on a piece of paper and tape it in the window.
-- RED means STOP HERE!
-- GREEN means EVERYTHING IS OKAY…MOVE ON!
-- Nothing in the window would also mean STOP HERE!
What to wear – Use sturdy work boots and gloves.
Check outside first - Before you go inside, walk around outside to check for loose power lines, gas leaks, and structural damage.
Use a flashlight - There may be gas or other flammable materials in the area so use a battery-operated flashlight (do not use oil, gas lanterns, candles or torches and don’t smoke!)
Things to check - Some things you want to do first…
Take & share pics - If you have a camera phone, take shots of the damage to your home or place of business since it may take days before an adjuster gets there. It can also be a way to share updates with neighbors who aren’t able to get to the site. The photos could also be uploaded to First Responders and/or media to help prioritize the response efforts.
Call a professional - If you have any doubts about the safety of your home, contact a professional inspector.
Download above in a 4-page PDF and find other safety topics from It's A Disaster!
Above from IT'S A DISASTER! …and what are YOU gonna do about it? book (proceeds benefit USFRA) - learn more
For more info and to monitor earthquake activity…
USGS Earthquake Hazards Program http://earthquake.usgs.gov/earthquakes/
Southern California Earthquake Center http://www.scec.org/education/
St Louis Univ Earthquake Center http://www.eas.slu.edu/Earthquake_Center/
Arkansas Center for Earthquake Education and Technology Transfer http://quake.ualr.edu/
Also review some Tsunami safety tips here on USFRA at www.usfra.org/group/disasterpreparedness/forum/topics/tsunami-safet...